Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Keeping ferrets cool

In Britain we're having a heatwave at the moment, which has brought me on, naturally, to talk about ways to keep your ferrets cool. Ferrets can overheat very quickly, and can become very ill in a matter of hours. Indoor ferrets should stay indoors in a cool place away from direct sunlight. It may be best for outdoor ferrets to come in  also if possible. A fan or air conditioning unit can be used, just make sure it's not blowing directly at the cage. I would also keep the fan away from their reach, being the curious little animals they are they're bound to get hurt somehow. I have windows open too to try and encourage some air flow, but please make sure that your ferrets can't reach them otherwise you could have some escapes/falls on your hands!

Please don't put anything frozen in with your ferrets without a suitable cover on. You can use frozen water bottles (like hot water bottles) and put them back in the cover or some people will say to freeze a bottle of water and wrap it in a towel. The only problem I have with this is that it won't stay in the towel for long! My ferrets can remove something like this in about 10 seconds or less! If you're going to do this then please find a cover that they won't be able to tear off straight away.

You can buy a Granite cool slab, normally designed and on sale for chinchillas, they provide a cool area to lay. If you want a larger piece then a DIY store or kitchen workshop that provide a cutting service may be able to provide you with a suitable sized piece of granite or marble. You will be better off asking for any scraps they have to buy, otherwise you may be asked to buy a full (usually around 2m) length piece, which would be very costly!
Another thing you could do if your ferrets don't detest it, is to spray them gently with a light mist of water periodically, using a spray bottle to encourage cooling via the skin. Hopefully I don't need to say this but please don't spray your ferrets in the face, if they didn't like being sprayed before they certainly won't like it after!
Something that I like to do is put a small amount of water in the bottom of a shallow tub and let them drink and paddle to cool off. My boys hate it, and jump out straight away if you try and put them in there! Our newest addition Lola however is a water baby! I saw how she loved to jump in and out of her splashy tub so I bought some plastic play balls (the ones meant for ball pits) that float. She has great fun trying to catch the balls as they bob in the water.
Some ferret owners place ice cubes in the water bowl or just provide them to play with. Ferrets don't really like to drink very cold water, so this may actually stop them from drinking as much as they would normally. Aside from that I'm not too keen on letting them have ice cubes as they can cause serious problems if chewed and swallowed due to the drastic temperature change.
It may be tempting to take your ferrets to the beach on a hot day, or out for a walk, but this can be disastrous! If you want to take them outside to enjoy the weather then  please do it at dusk, if the temperature has cooled suitably. They really won't enjoy being dragged around in the heat, and will more than likely become very ill.
Coincidentally, if your ferret does overheat (limp, red nose and paw pads, panting, mucous) then you must not bring their temperature down too quickly, as this can actually make matters worse. You should try and get some water into them with a bottle or syringe, but make sure that they are actually swallowing, you don't want water to end up in their lungs! You can wrap them in a damp cloth, or wipe them over with one. If there are two people present then it would probably be wise to have one calling a vet and to drive there while the other person attends to the poorly ferret.

Just remember, you can have fun in the sun, but please leave your ferrets at home!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Bathing your ferrets.

Bathing ferrets is sometimes necessary but is often over practised by owners. Owners of particularly smelly ferrets may think that by bathing their ferret regularly they can eliminate any odours. All that this normally does is make the problem worse as bathing tends to dry out the skin and coat, leading to the ferret producing more oils to compensate. If your ferret hasn't been neutered then that will likely be the cause of most of the smell.
Unless your ferret rolls/steps in something unpleasant then it shouldn't really be necessary to bath your ferret more than twice a year. Some people do say that every couple of months is fine, but personally I think this is far too frequent.
You need to have a gentle shampoo, one designed specifically for ferrets if possible. I'm currently using 'Beaphar squeaky clean Rodi shampoo' suitable for small animals including guinea pigs, hamsters (personally I've never bathed any of my hamsters but there you go) rabbits and ferrets. You will also need a suitable object to bath them in such as a sink or bathtub. Personally I wouldn't use the sink as they are very skilled climbers, mine can climb out of the bathtub so can certainly climb out of a sink! Obviously sinks are fairly high, which would create a fall hazard. I bath mine in the tub, with a couple of inches of warm water in the bottom. If you have a non slip mat then that would help the ferret feel safer and reduce the risk of accidents.
If you are bathing your ferret(s) for the first time then I would try to make it as fun as possible with toys, perhaps buy a waterproof toy just for bath time?  It's handy to place something in there for your ferrets to stand on if they want to come out of the water at any point, I use a large Tupperware container. Adding some kind of weight to the container will make for a more stable 'raft'.
Particularly if you have a longer coated ferret such as an angora you will be best to gently brush your ferret before the bath using a brush designed for small animals (soft bristle brushes are best, please don't use slicker  brushes as these are best for dogs and can cause injury if used improperly) as any knots that are in the coat will tighten on contact with water (just the same as our hair) and be even harder to remove after the bath! This is a valuable piece of information I've learnt from my time working as a dog groomer.
To start, place the ferret (I would do this one ferret at a time) in the bath, and give it a couple of minutes to check everything out. I would then start to gently scoop water onto its back. For my two older boys I use the shower head to wet them and to rinse as it is far quicker, but this can be a scary experience so you may need to build up to this gradually. My boys enjoy sticking their heads underneath the spray before running off, then returning to do the same again a few minutes later!
Whether you are scooping water onto them or using a shower hose I would start at the back, the same as you would with a dog. This is far less stressful than if you were to start at the head, your ferret wouldn't know what was going on! Starting from the back gives them time to gradually get used to the feeling and the sounds.
 Once your ferret's coat is completely saturated you can then work a small amount of shampoo into a lather on their coat. With ferrets I don't tend to wash the head as such. I may dampen it with water but I certainly don't shampoo it. Their heads are far too small I believe to bath without getting soap in their eyes, ears and mouth, so usually only shampoo up to the neck. Aside from the worry about the shampoo, having water splashed in your face cannot be a terribly nice experience! Gentle baby wipes are useful for wiping over a mucky face.
Once your ferret has been lathered up you can rinse it off. This is the most important part of the bath, you need to remove all that soap to prevent irritation and even skin problems that may occur if left in. It may be helpful to do a water change or two so that you can easily see when the bubbles stop appearing in the rinse water and when the water starts to run clear. Another way to check if the coat has been rinsed thoroughly is if it 'squeaks' when you run your hand down it. If you're unsure as to what I mean run your hands over your rinsed hair the next time you wash it, it should sound squeaky, which is normally an indication that all the soap has been removed.
Have plenty of towels ready as your ferret will try to roll in/on anything available to dry off! I've had them try to climb up my trouser leg to dry off before! Try to bath your ferret on a warm day/when you have the heating on to prevent it getting a chill. If you have outdoor ferrets then I wouldn't suggest putting them back until they have dried off thoroughly, which doesn't take too long.
Hopefully I've provided you with enough information, of course if you do have any questions then please feel free to comment below and I will try to answer them for you!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Crusher's Chronicles Volume 2.

Those of you who read my feature on Crusher's chronicles volume 1 will already know about Crusher, the ferret behind the books and his crew. For those that (shock horror) missed it, you can check it out here

Volume two is another collection of funny stories about a real life group of ferrets living in the north of England. Like the first instalment there are 15 short stories with pictures and they are written from the point of view of Crusher, as he tells all about the hardships of running a team of 37 ferrets and his human parents on top of that!
In this book you can read about the 'Meerkat Mafia', runaway angoras in search of love and 'The British ferret party' plus much more!
There's a good share of ferrety romance in this, from the afore mentioned runaway angora love story, a young innocent Belle falling for a bad boy from up the hill and plenty of flirting when a new boy appears on the scene!
Here are my favourite quotes from 'The new boy on the block' chapter... ' "The name's Stockton, I came in last night, Mum and Dad brought me in from the east and from the eye candy I've seen down there, I will be staying." '
Crusher's response to this? ' I couldn't contain myself any longer, "Whose Mum and Dad! Do you mean our Mum and Dad? Anyway what sort of name is Stockton? Eye candy! Are you here just to wind me up? My name is Crusher and I'm top ferret round here." '
Despite Crusher's disapproval certain members of the group didn't seem to mind at all! ' "Is he stopping? Looks like a chunky hunk to me" Lydia sniggered.'
One of my favourite parts of the book is when Crusher gets into a rather sticky situation with some 'long eared carrot crunchers'. His in the moment reaction to this experience? ' Far too much to take, got to admit, resulted in me toileting all over Dad's nets'.

This is another cracking little book that any ferret owner/enthusiast should own! Treat yourself or why not get  one or both as a gift for the ferret lover in your life?
Buying the two together works out at a cracking £8.99 so these suit virtually any budget. Why not take a peek at their other ferret related goods and ferret bedding while you're there? Here is a link to the 'ferret goodies' page where you will find both volumes of Crusher's Chronicles.

Happy reading!